State Health Commissioner Attends Rochester Rally to Promote Education and Opportunities for Latina Girls

Former Surgeon General is "Madrina" for National Bilingual Public Education Initiative

Albany, October 5, 2002 – New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today urged Latina women and girls at a Rochester rally to set high goals and hold themselves to even higher standards.

The rally was held as part of the national ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina! bilingual public education initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina! initiative provides bilingual materials designed to assist young Latinas ages 9 to 14 and their mothers to help build and enhance self-esteem, mental health, decision-making skills and assertiveness, and to prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Dr. Novello is acting as Madrina (Godmother and spokesperson) for the initiative.

Dr. Novello said, "Almost any dream can be realized if you have the desire to learn, and the wisdom to ask for help. You need both. Share knowledge, and delegate with trust. When you find that a career path and your heart have come together, don't let anything stand in the way of your success."

Governor George E. Pataki said, "Dr Novello is one of the highest profile Latinas in the country. She symbolizes the potential of the Hispanic community in the United States, which has soared to a population of 36 million. As a leader and as one of the ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina! Madrinas, she is providing invaluable support for this extraordinary initiative, and her involvement promises to have a far reaching impact on Latina girls."

SAMSHA Administrator Charles Curie said, "We have joined with the Hispanic/Latino community to help parents send a clear and consistent message to their children – that drugs are illegal, dangerous and addictive. The key is talking with our children early and often.  ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina! is about helping young Latinas get the information they need, and helping mothers talk about a subject that can be difficult for them."

SAMSHA asked Dr. Novello to serve as Madrina based on her unique professional accomplishments. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor's of Science degree in 1965 and a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1970. She was awarded a Master's in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University in 1982 and a Doctor of Public Health degree in 2000. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush named Novello Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service. Her appointment marked two historic firsts: the first woman and the first Hispanic ever to hold this position.

As Surgeon General, Dr. Novello advised the President and Congress on policy for all health matters. Among her proudest achievements as Surgeon General was raising awareness about AIDS, smoking, underage drinking, and children's health. Under her leadership, the United States went from an 87 percent to a 95 percent vaccination rate for school-age children.

Under Governor Pataki, since becoming New York State's Health Commissioner, Dr. Novello has continued to champion the needs of the most vulnerable citizens. At today's rally, she encouraged Latinas to follow in her footsteps.

As "Madrina," nothing would please me more than to see bright, ambitious Latinas choose a career in health and medicine," Dr. Novello said. "Thanks to Governor Pataki, and his support of minority physician education and training through the Minority Participation in Medical Education grant program, many more Latinas now have an opportunity to become doctors and contribute their unique gifts to New York's world class health care system. Of course, no one career path is right for everyone. But for Latinas who are determined to succeed, I am confident that the future holds great promise."

10/5/02–107 OPA